Journal of Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 49 Issue 1 (January 2019), Pages 1-59

Understanding sexual prejudice: The role of political ideology and strategic essentialism (pages 3-14)

Abstract Despite the increased visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ community, sexual minorities continue to face prejudice and discrimination in many domains. Past research has shown that this prejudice is more prevalent among those holding conservative political views. In two studies, we merge strategic essentialism and motivated ideology theoretical perspectives to empirically investigate the link between political orientation and sexual prejudice. More specifically, we examine how conservatives strategically use different forms of essentialism to support their views of gay individuals and their reactions to messages aimed at changing essentializing beliefs. In Study 1 (N = 220), we demonstrate that conservatives endorse social essentialism (i.e., the belief that gay and straight people are fundamentally different from each other) more than liberals do. In turn, they blame gay individuals more for their sexual orientation and show more prejudice toward them. At the same time, conservatives endorse trait essentialism (i.e., the belief that sexual orientation is a fixed attribute that cannot be changed) less than liberals do, which in turn predicts greater levels of blame and prejudice for conservatives relative to liberals. In Study 2 (N = 217), we additionally show that conservatives, but not liberals, are resistant to messages aimed at increasing trait essentialism and reducing prejudice toward sexual minorities. We discuss theoretical and practical implications of these findings.

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